DETROIT — Tattooed on Garrett Hill’s left arm is a baseball, with the seams colored red. Inscribed around it are the words Dignity, Respect, Pride and Honor. It offers a little window into what’s inside this bespectacled right-hander.
“My coach at Santa Rosa Junior College (Tom Francois) told me that’s what every man has, dignity, respect, pride and honor,” Hill said. “I took that to heart and thought it was super cool. That meant a lot to me.”
As he showed in a historically impressive big-league debut Monday at Comerica Park, there’s more here than what his studious exterior may suggest.
Barely recruited out of high school and a 26th-round draft pick in 2018, Hill was in Double-A Erie just a few weeks ago. But in six innings against the pesky-hitting Cleveland Guardians, Hill allowed only a solo home run to Josh Naylor and single in six innings.
In sending the Tigers to a 4-1 win over Central Division-rival Cleveland in Game 1 of the Fourth of July doubleheader, Hill became the first Tigers pitcher ever to work at least six innings and allow no more than two hits in his Major League debut.
He didn’t overpower anyone, getting three strikeouts, but Hill effectively mixed cutters, sinkers, changeups and a handful of curve balls with his four-seam fastball and got a lot of weak swings and soft contact.
The Guardians put 16 balls in play, 10 in the air, with an average exit velocity of 87 mph.
Naylor, who was Hill’s first strikeout victim, turned on a changeup and lined it over the right-field fence with two outs in the fourth. It was the third straight changeup Hill threw in the at-bat.
He finished six innings in an efficient 78 pitches and left with a 2-1 lead.
Hill got a little help from his defense in the third inning. A lot of help.